Anime Review: Love Live! Sunshine!!

By Drew Hurley 11.07.2018

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Love Live! Sunshine!! (UK Rating: 12)

Idols have become such a core part of Japanese culture that they are now as synonymous with the Land of the Rising Sun as Godzilla or sushi. As a result, there are countless anime series being produced based on the premise of teenage girls becoming idols or forming idol groups, but few have reached the levels of the phenomenon of Love Live! The original series of Love Live! has already been covered here at Cubed3, as has Love Live! Season 2, both coming from MVM. This latest series, Love Live! Sunshine!!, though, isn't a continuation of that story as such; this is a whole new generation of girls learning what it means to form an idol group. No MVM this time, either, as All the Anime has snagged the rights for this new tale. This complete collection has been available from 18th June.

Chika Takami has lived her life as just an average, normal girl; she always thought that would be enough. Then, during a trip to Akiba, she happened upon a big screen performance by Muse and it inspired her. For the first time in her life she feels truly passionate about something; for the first time she's not happy with just being normal; now she wants to shine. This is where it begins to feel all too familiar. Chika sets out to create her own idol club at her school, although she hits a roadblock with the first step when her proposal for the group is blocked by the school council president who is adamant she will not allow a school idol group in her school. Then there's the small matter of gathering girls who all want to join the school idol club.

At first, all Chika has is her childhood friend who's always willing to help her out, but as the episodes progress, more and more girls begin to enlist. Each usually with an entire episode dedicated to them. First is Riko Sakurauchi, a new transfer student from Otonokizaka. If that name sounds familiar it's the home of μs, the school from the original series. Riko isn't interested in becoming an idol but would be a perfect fit thanks to her talents as a pianist. She accepts the position as the composer of the girls' songs, at least. In quick succession, the group grows and grows, enlisting the little sister of the president, a third-year choreographer and a chuunibyou named Yoshiko who thinks herself a fallen angel - whose introduction brings one of the best and funniest episodes, although in the English dub she's considerably less enjoyable thanks to being voiced by Morgan Berry, who has a horribly grating voice. As things start to come together, another story thread similar to the original appears - the school is suddenly threatened with closure.

Even Chika comments on the similarity compared to the story of μs and thinks that with this latest development all the flags are raised for their explosion into popularity and their transformation into a real idol club. By this point, half of the series has already gone. There are only thirteen episodes here and the story absolutely flies by. It feels like the story really deserved a full season. The remainder has the girls recruiting their final members, learning what makes their town so special, making a PV to get the attention of the masses, climbing the ranks of school idol groups, and reuniting fractured old friendships.

Those hoping for some romance here, there are hints of it, but it's all Yuri, and it's done very well, not in your face silly fan-service and groping out of nowhere - giggling flirtations between genuinely likeable characters. Honestly, this cast as a whole is actually superior to the original; Chika and You especially have some fantastic genuine moments and heartfelt little sequences. The combined with some really well-written gags all adds up to a very enjoyable series.

As mentioned above, there is both an English and Japanese dub available with this release; the Japanese is far superior, but the English is bearable. Thankfully, the songs are all kept in their original Japanese. One of the biggest issues with the original series was the musical performance sequences. They switched into horribly janky 3D that really detracted from the show. Happily, this has been somewhat addressed, although it's hard to see that it has because there are hardly any performances during the series, thanks to its short length. The performances there are, are absolutely top-tier, with some insanely catchy J-Pop goodness that will stick in the heads of viewers for the longest time. The art and animation are solid, too; Sunrise does good work. It can't all be great, though, and once again the extras let the side down. A disappointing bundle of bonus features is tacked on once again with this release, some promo videos, some trailers, and clean opening videos… bare bones, which is such a shame.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Love Live! Sunshine!! is an enjoyable follow up to Love Live! but one that falls a little short of its predecessor. This is all down to two things. First off, it is ridiculously derivative of its original series. Pulling so many key elements of the story; the girls forming, filming a PV, training camp, school closing down… At least the characters feel fresh and original. Secondly, 13 episodes is far too short; it feels awfully rushed and, for a series based around idols, there hardly any performances. It at least received a second season and now a final wrap up movie is planned for the start of 2019, so hopefully they will come to the UK soon.

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